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              === Irish beat USC, will play for national title ===
 
 Los  Angeles,  CA (Sports Network) -  The top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish
 will  play for their first national championship since 1988, thanks to a 22-13
 victory over the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
 
 Kyle  Brindza made five field goals to help the Irish secure a spot in the BCS
 National  Championship Game, which  will be played on Jan. 7, 2013 at Sun Life
 Stadium.
 
 Thanks to losses by both Oregon and Kansas State last week, coupled with Notre
 Dame's  shutout of  Wake Forest, Brian Kelly's  Irish moved to the head of the
 top-25 poll, as well as the BCS rankings.
 
 With  Saturday's victory, Notre Dame improved to 12-0 for the first time since
 1988. Lou Holtz guided the '88 team to a national championship.
 
 "The coaches did a great job this week of keeping our guys focused on the game
 itself," Kelly said. "We really focused on the game."
 
 Everett Golson completed 15-of-26 passes for 217 yards for the Irish, who will
 likely  face a  Southeastern Conference opponent in Miami. Alabama and Georgia
 will play for the SEC title next weekend.
 
 Theo Riddick rushed for 146 yards and a score on 20 carries for Notre Dame.
 
 Max  Wittek,  filling in  for an  injured Matt  Barkley, connected on 14-of-23
 passes  for  186 yards,  one touchdown  and two  interceptions for the Trojans
 (7-5). The freshman quarterback made his first career start.
 
 Notre Dame, which came into the game tied with Alabama for first nationally in
 scoring  defense (10.1 ppg),  used a late goal line stand to help preserve the
 victory.
 
 Trailing by nine, 22-13, the Trojans got a 43-yard kickoff return from Marqise
 Lee with about six minutes to play. On the first play, Lee hauled in a 53-yard
 pass  to put  the  ball  at the  2-yard  line.  Consecutive pass  interference
 penalties on KeiVarae Russell set up USC at the one. Wittek was stuffed at the
 line  on  back-to-back quarterback  sneaks. Curtis McNeal  was then stopped to
 bring  up 4th-and-goal.  Wittek's pass to Soma Vainuku fell incomplete and the
 Irish took over on downs.
 
 "It's  just  so hard to  score touchdowns versus  them," USC coach Lane Kiffin
 said.  "When the  ball is  on the  2-inch line,  you'd think  you could  score
 touchdowns."
 
 The  Irish were  able to run out almost  all of the remaining time left on the
 clock.
 
 Notre  Dame got the ball to start the game and quickly moved the ball into USC
 territory.  The Irish gained 12 yards or more on four of the first five plays,
 but had to settle for a 27-yard Brindza field goal.
 
 The  Irish  found the end zone  on their next  possession to take a 10-0 lead.
 Riddick,  TJ  Jones and  Tyler Eifert  caught passes  of 11,  20 and 15 yards,
 respectively,  to move the ball to the USC 24. Eifert added a 12-yard catch on
 3rd-and-9  to  keep the  drive alive. Riddick  ran up the  middle for a 9-yard
 score with 1:48 left.
 
 A  few penalties  on Notre Dame helped the Trojans score their first touchdown
 of  the  game. Russell  was called  for pass  interference and Bennett Jackson
 grabbed  Lee's face  mask, which set up  USC at the 11-yard line. On the first
 play  of the second quarter, Robert Woods caught an 11-yard pass in the middle
 of the end zone.
 
 Brindza  and  Andre  Heidari  exchanged  field  goals  of  29  and  39  yards,
 respectively, to make it a 13-10 contest.
 
 Wittek's first big mistake came late in the first half when Russell picked him
 off  at the Notre  Dame 17. John Goodman and Robby Toma hauled in passes of 23
 and  12  yards, respectively, to move  the ball to  the USC 35. Brindza made a
 career-long 52-yard field goal as time expired, making it 16-10.
 
 The Irish had a chance to extend their lead after Manti Te'o picked off Wittek
 on the second play of the second half. However, Brindza pushed a 34-yard field
 goal wide left.
 
 Brindza  redeemed  himself by  making a  33-yarder later  in the third stanza.
 Eifert's  36-yard catch  along the left sideline helped set up the field goal,
 which made it a 19-10 contest with 31 seconds remaining.
 
 USC  bridged the  third and fourth frames with a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Woods
 caught  passes  of 17  and 18 yards  to move  the ball into  the red zone. The
 Irish,  though,  held strong once the  Trojans got to the 2-yard line. Heidari
 made a 21-yard field goal to cut the gap to 19-13.
 
 George  Atkinson III  returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to give Notre Dame
 great  field  position. Riddick  ripped off  a 20-yard run  on the first play,
 moving  the ball  to the USC 36. Brindza  made a 19-yard field goal to make it
 22-13 with 5:58 to play.
 
 
                                   Game Notes
 
 Notre  Dame holds  a 44-35-5 series advantage against USC. The Trojans had won
 nine  of the previous 10 meetings ... Silas Redd carried the ball 12 times for
 77  yards  for USC ...  Woods caught  seven passes for  92 yards ... Te'o, the
 Heisman  Trophy hopeful,  joined Bob Crable as the only Notre Dame player ever
 to collect 100 or more tackles in three separate seasons.
 
 11/25 02:29:47 ET